Buxton welcomed back one of their favourite sons this week but a postponement followed by a first home defeat of the campaign meant it was a frustrating few days for Martin McIntosh and his players.
Liam Hardy, a prolific scorer for the Bucks before his departure to Darlington last season, has returned on a month’s loan to help maintain the club’s promotion push.
But even a ‘debut’ goal for Hardy couldn’t stop Buxton falling to a 3-1 defeat against Stafford Rangers on Tuesday night, a result not helped by the sending off of defender Greg Young early in the second-half.
McIntosh said: “Firstly, nothing should be taken away from Stafford who were the best team we’ve faced at the Silverlands this season and who deserved the win.
“But I was disappointed as their first two goals were poor from a defensive point of view and we also struggled when we went down to ten men, which really altered the course of the game.
“The poor defending was unlike us as we’ve been strong at the back all season, but that along with us not having much luck all night meant it wasn’t to be and Stafford deserved the win.”
Hardy’s return comes with the striker not having had too much game time with National League North side Darlington in recent months, and McIntosh isn’t ruling out a longer stay.
He said: “With Brad Grayson suspended I needed to try and plug the gap and given Liam was available it seemed the obvious choice.
“We’ll see how the four weeks go and then I’ll chat to (Darlington boss) Martin Gray again and see what the next step will be.”
McIntosh says he also expects a deal to go through that will see another former player return, this time in the form of Joe McGee who has left Workington.
The Bucks boss added: “We’re in a great position in the league and it’s important now that we have a squad capable of keeping us up there.
“A top five finish is ultimately our target but to do that with 16 or 17 players is very hard.
“We’ve now got probably the biggest squad we’ve had since I’ve been here and I’m pleased the chairman is understanding our requirements and helping me build a strong squad that can challenge.”
Buxton now prepare to head to Whitby Town on Saturday, another of the sides battling for a top five place and who currently sit fourth in the table, two points behind the Bucks.
McIntosh said: “I always enjoy going to Whitby and it’ll be another tough game, but we beat them at our place earlier in the season and have a good record against the teams in the upper part of the table.
“It’s really tight at the moment, I can identify at least 12 teams who are still in with a shout of a top five spot which shows you just how competitive the division is once again.
“So I want us to try and put another good run together and obviously pick up points against those who are also challenging for promotion. We’ve done superbly well to be where we are and we don’t want to let it slip.”
Following Saturday’s game, Buxton then host Nantwich Town in the Integro League Cup second round next Tuesday night, with Warrington Town the visitors to the Silverlands in the league four days later.